She was coming down the ladder with a snippet of net in her fist when the voice rang out, some astute observer who’d undoubtedly seen what everyone else saw Saturday.
Don’t fall! the voice shouted, as Concordia’s Courtney Smith came back down to earth.
Good advice for someone who, when it got down to cases, rose up.
Smith scored 15 of her game-high 16 points in the second half, and the Cadets followed her lead, first holding at arm’s length and then putting away an uncommonly resilient Angola team, 53-41, to win the Class 3A Bishop Dwenger sectional.
Oh, my goodness, Concordia coach Dave Miller said. It was a dogfight for so long. If there was a little space either way, by them or by us, it was going to be very, very difficult to come back on them.
But we made a couple big plays and made some free throws down the stretch to hold on.
Hold on was an apt description on a night when the defending 3A state champs led 19-17 at the half, led 32-30 after three quarters and finally put Angola (19-4) in their wake for keeps with an 8-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
That gave Concordia (17-6) a 40-30 lead that was bigger than it looked on a night when every bucket was a struggle. And a lot of that had to do with Smith – at both ends of the floor.
Defensively, she hounded Rachel Rinehart, Angola’s all-time leading scorer, limiting her to just seven points and holding her without a field goal. Rinehart missed all nine of her shots and was unable to consistently penetrate as Smith stayed in front of her all night. And offensively?
Offensively, Smith matched Rinehart futility for futility for a half, going to the locker room at the break with one point and no field goals on just two shots.
But Smith immediately ended that by driving hard for a layup to open the second half, then proceeded to make four more field goals and two free throws for a 10-point third quarter.
We changed what we were doing offensively a little bit, tried to get a little two-out-three-in to isolate her a little bit, Miller said. That allowed her to get to the basket a little bit and I think that was big for us.
My teammates did a really good job offensively and setting some screens and getting me open, she said.
For me it was just patience. I wanted to do everything defensively, and I knew after that the offense would come.
She got help inside from DeJour Young (12 points) and Jacqueline Dixie (9), and the Cadets knocked down 13 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal it.
We knew we had it in us, Smith said. (Coach) just said to pick it up and just play, just play, we got this. And don’t let up, because this is a good team. Angola is very good. We knew we had to play to that type of level to get it done.